Sunday, 8 August 2010

Laithwaites Experts' Choice Part 1...and (semi) blind tasting

Ok here we go...

Welcome to the first reviews. If you're not familiar with the Blog then please read my welcome notice here:

I asked D to serve these to me randomly from the Laithwaites case, labels hidden, so that I didn't have any preconceptions. Also, I want to develop my blind tasting skills as I'm still a beginner in this respect. Anyway, more on that below the reviews. First up, two reds...

Los Rosales Chapel Vineyard Merlot Reserva 2009

Grown on steep slopes in the Rapel Valley in Chile, in the tiny vineyard of an old church apparently. Cool. 14% alcohol

The Look: Very dark red with a purple tinge, almost opaque.

The Smell: Spicy blackcurrant and blackberries after a while.

The Taste: More redcurrant/red berries than the smell suggests. Quite acidic. Slight tannins present. Young. Develops well after an hour or so, open an hour before or leave your glass sit for 20mins. Then the lovely blackberry aromas and tastes take over. Went great with our Bolognese and tasted even better after it.

The Score: Not bad at all, but not mind-blowing either. 6.5/10

VFM: at the case price of £8.92 a bottle it gives VFM = 0.73, but the bottle price when you buy 6 separately is actually cheaper at £7.46 giving a VFM =  0.87 and better value. One to buy separately.


Pago de Cirsus Seleccion Especial, Temperanillo-Cabernet-Merlot 2006

This comes from the Navarra appellation of Spain, oak-aged and produced by Spanish movie-maker Iñaki Nuñez. 14.5% alcohol.

The Look: A deep purple, turning to a crimson red at the rim.

The Smell: Smells "warm", plenty of alcohol in this one. Spicy, plummy, blackcurrant and redcurrant.

The Taste: Very spicy, cabernet-like but with a long finish of quite sour redcurrant. You can taste the oak aging. Again this needed time to develop, After a while, strawberry jam smell was evident and the harsh, sour red finish changed to a lovely gentler raspberry. We had this with home-made sweet and sour chicken (of all things!) and it stood up well. After food the tannins were more present.

The Score: Pretty good. Needs time in glass or bottle though to get rid of the harshness. 7/10

VFM: at the case price of £8.92 a bottle it gives VFM = 0.78, ever so slightly more expensive when you buy 6 separately at £8.99 giving a near identical VFM.

And then two whites...


Esk Valley Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough NZ 2009

Made by acclaimed winemaker Gordon Russell in the Hawkes Bay area of New Zealand, but with grapes sourced from Marlborough. 13.5% alcohol.

The Look: A pale watery, whitish yellow.

The Smell: Unmistakeable New World Sauv Blanc! Lime, citrus, cut grass, tropical fruit and peas in a pod. D says "Mango Yoghurt".

The Taste: Very fresh and zingy, good acidity but not mouth-puckering. Again lime, citrus and tropical fruit evident. Beautiful. Long finish.

The Score: This is great. 8.5/10 Highly Recommended. This would challenge a £22 bottle of Cloudy Bay. D loved it. I loved it.

VFM: at the case price of £8.92 a bottle it gives VFM = 0.95. Great Value. You can buy it in quantities of 1-bottle, 6-bottles or 12 at £8.99 giving a near identical VFM.



Domaine Dampt Vielles Vignes Petit Chablis 2008

From the Petit Chablis AOC appellation. Made by three brothers, Eric, Emmanuel and Herve Dampt. 12.5% alcohol.

The Look: A pale medium-yellow.

The Smell: Not much evident straight from the bottle. Slight smell of smoked cheese. Took on a lovely honey and peach smell after a while.

The Taste: Honey. Brandy. Peachy/apricoty taste. Quite restrained, not a fruit explosion by any means.

The Score: This was reasonably good. When I found out it was Chablis I expected a little more from it. 7/10

VFM: at the case price of £8.92 a bottle it gives VFM = 0.78. However, to purchase this separately in quantities of 6-off or 12-off it costs £11.99 giving a VFM = 0.58. One to get in a mixed case.

So there we go. First reviews done. The next four bottles will be from the Tesco case and I'll alternate it that way. Two whites and two reds each time until the cases are gone. Then I'll move on to a different vendor.


My (semi) Blind Tasting...

Ok, so I don't think I've told you yet but, my memory is appalling! Or maybe I have? :) The only thing I can remember about the contents of the Laithwaites case was an Argentinian Malbec and an Australian Shiraz so I asked D to pick the wines at random but leave these two out. I really want to develop my blind tasting skill (NB: I have no training in this apart from drinking wines!). D suggested this would be a good way and I agreed. I said I'd  have a stab at the:

  • Grape type
  • Country or Region
  • Year
  • Alcohol level

However, since I did buy the cases myself, then my sub-conscious probably knows what's in there, even if my short-term memory doesn't! Hence, it can only be termed semi-blind tasting. Being a novice, I thought this would be quite a challenge. Here's what I wrote about each wine in my note book:


Wine #1:

Dark red, purple tinge, almost opaque. Shiraz maybe? Not Shiraz from the smell. Blackcurrant and spice smell but not Cab Sauv. Blackberry. Taste is more red berries. Acidic. Young 2008. Slight tannin. About 13.5% alcohol from the stickiness. Merlot? No too dark. Stumped - can't place country or grape. If it's Chilean Merlot I'll kick myself...

The guess: None. Baffled by this. 2008 and 13.5% alcohol.

The reveal: Bloody Chilean Merlot!!! 14%. 2009. I got that it was young and alcohol to within 0.5% but not the grape or region. NOTE TO SELF: Merlot can be very dark. Go with your instincts!

Wine #2:

Deep purple, crimson rim. Smells "warm" - must be from a hot place. Spicy, plummy black/redcurrant. Big alcohol. 14%. Very spicy. Long finish. Sour redcurrant or something similar. Cabernet-like but too spicy. Blend? No, can't pick out any other varieties of grape. It's been aged so 2007? Somewhere hot...Italy? Like Cabernet but spicy...Primitivo or Montepulciano?

The guess: Italian Montepulciano, 2007 and 14% alcohol.

The reveal: Bugger. Spanish Temperanillo-Cabernet-Merlot, 2006 and 14.5% alcohol. I got that it was aged and the alcohol but dismissed a Cabernet based blend as too spicy. NOTE TO SELF: If you can taste Cabernet it probably is! Temperanillo can give a redcurrant spicyness!

Wine #3:

Very pale watery yellow. Sauv Blanc? Smells of lime, citrus and cut-grass. YES!!! Sauv Blanc! Peas. Tastes of tropical fruit, citrus and zingy lime which means new world. Very fresh acidity. Definitely not France.Young, 2008 or 2009. Quite sticky but difficult to judge whites. Between 12.5 and 13% alcohol. Not overpowered by cut grass so maybe not NZ. Chile? NZ or Chile?

The guess: Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, 2009, 13% alcohol.

The reveal: Bollocks! It's NZ Sauvignon! I got the grape and the year, and the alcohol to within 0.5% but dismissed NZ and chose Chile. NOTE TO SELF: Recognise the hints in the glass!


Wine #4:

Pale medium-yellow. Not much on the smell. Is that smoked cheese? Bloody hell, strange. Not a very distinct taste. Honey, brandy, maybe some peachy/apricotty hints. Not enough peach shcnapps for Viognier. Baffling. More limey acidity after a while. Smoothness says it could be oaked. Phoo, I'm stumped. France? Loire? No, not Sauvignon. Chardonnay blend? No, not enough fruit.

The guess: Complete wild guess: Italian Pinot Grigio. 13%. 2008.

The reveal: Uh-oh. Petit Chablis 2008, 12.5%. NOTE TO SELF: You know what Chablis tastes like, you should have got this!!!

So, overall, not bad for a novice BUT, I really should listen to my instincts and learn to recognise tastes/smells/colours that I've seen before to narrow things down. Also, more aromas and flavours develop with time so leave them for a while before making the guess!

Anyway, I look forward to (semi) blind tasting the next wines...

Speak to you soon,

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